‘Of An Age’, ‘Clean’ to bookend the 70th MIFF

'Of An Age'. (Photo: Ben King)

The world premiere of Goran Stolevski’s anticipated sophomore feature, Of An Age, will open this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

The event, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, announced its first titles today ahead of a full program launch on July 12.

Of An Age is one of 10 MIFF Premiere Fund-supported titles due to screen, and follows Stolevski’s critically lauded debutYou Won’t Be Alone, which bowed at Sundance in January.

The coming-of-age drama, set and shot in Melbourne, depicts the brief, but lingering, romance between two young men – Elias Anton (Barracuda) and Thom Green (Dance Academy) – over the course of one sweltering summer’s day in 1999. 

Like You Won’t Be Alone, Of An Age is produced by Causeway Films’ Kristina Ceyton and Samantha Jennings.

“Goran Stolevski is having an extraordinary 2022, emerging as a major voice within world cinema from right here in Melbourne,” said MIFF artistic director Al Cossar in a statement.  

Of an Age will make audiences swoon, yes – but it will also make them sit up and take notice. We’re so thrilled that MIFF’s return to cinemas will be marked with this incredible, moving, Melbourne story of love and longing.”

Goran Stolevski on ‘Of An Age’ premiering at MIFF.

Stolevski described his film premiering at MIFF as the opening night title as “the thrill of a lifetime”.

“Watching movies at MIFF has been a holy winter ritual since I was literally a child. It’s what kept me going, in fact, for two decades, through many tricky periods as a writer-director.”

Closing the festival will be another Melbourne-shot title, documentary Clean, which recently premiered at SXSW.

Directed by Lachlan McLeod and produced by David Elliot-Jones and Charlotte Wheaton, the fly-on-the-wall film follows the late Sandra Pankhurst, who was a ‘trauma cleaner’ – her business STC Services specialised in cleaning premises after homicides and suicides, and clearing the home of hoarders. A transgender woman, Pankhurst had lived many lives as survivor of childhood abuse, suburban parent, drag queen, sex worker, funeral director, business owner, and motivational speaker.

Sandra Pankhurst, the subject of MIFF Closing Night film ‘Clean’.

2022 will mark MIFF’s return to a full cinema season for the first time since 2019, with last year’s festival disrupted by the Delta outbreak. To celebrate its 70th anniversary, the festival plans to launch its inaugural $140,000 film competition, as well as special events, talks, performances, commissioned works and screenings. Events will be held not only in metropolitan Melbourne but also in regional and suburban cinemas, and there will be an at-home streaming selection available nationally via MIFF Play.

In addition to Of An Age, this year’s MIFF Premiere Fund line-up also includes a number of anticipated local films, including Alena Lodkina’s second feature, Petrol, following on from her Venice Biennale College-backed debut Strange Colours; Sara Kern’s debut Moja Vesna, fresh from its premiere in Berlinale; and Jub Clerc’s WA-set Sweet As, starring Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Tasma Walton and Mark Coles Smith.

Documentaries include Bruce Permezel and Rhian Skirving’s Greenhouse by Joost, which follows zero-waste pioneer Joost Bakker; Kasimir Burgess’s Franklin, about the environmental campaign that saved Tasmania’s Franklin River in the ’80s; and Sue Thomson’s Margot Robbie-narrated Under Cover, an exploration of the fastest-growing social group facing homelessness: women aged over 55.

Also to screen is Sari Braithwaite’s doc Because We Have Each Other, about a neurodiverse, working-class family in outer-suburban Queensland; and James Crawley’s Volcano Man, about his father, Richard, who always fancied himself a filmmaker, capturing every minute and milestone of his family’s quiet but loving life in Port Fairy, only to never do anything with it.

The Premiere Fund line-up further includes Senses of Cinema, from co-directors John Hughes and Tom Zubrycki. The archival documentary looks back at the rise and role of Melbourne and Sydney filmmaking cooperatives in the 1960s and 1970s, and features Phillip Noyce, Jan Chapman and Gillian Armstrong.

Other Australian projects to feature in the early MIFF program include David Easteal’s docu-drama The Plains, which premiered at Rotterdam and is currently screening at the Sydney Film Festival, and virtual reality installation Gondwana, from Emma Roberts and Ben Andrews, which has screened at both Sundance and SXSW.

Alena Lodkina’s second film, ‘Petrol’, is a MIFF Premiere Fund-supported title.

As IF has previously reported, the festival has also commissioned augmented reality experience Line-Up, an interpretation of being in a queue at the Melbourne International Film Festival, from artists Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine.

MIFF will also host a celebration of the sounds of Victorian filmmaking, in collaboration with Orchestra Victoria. Sounds of the Screen: Movie Music Across Victorian Landscapes will be delivered across two acts at Hamer Hall and feature a repertoire scores from the likes of Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Railway Man, Mad Max, Noise, The Dressmaker and The Legends of the Guardians.

In terms of international titles, MIFF announced today it will carry the Australian premiere of Valentyn Vasyanovych’s Reflection; screen 2022 Golden Bear winner Alcarràs, from Catalonian writer/director Carla Simón; and Riley Stearns’ satire Duel, starring Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul.

Further highlights include Audrey Plaza-starrer Emily the Criminal, from debut filmmaker John Patton Ford; Paz Encina’s Eami, which won the Tiger Award at Rotterdam this year; Il Buco, from artist and filmmaker Michelangelo Frammartino, which won the Special Jury Prize at Venice in 2021 and Christian Talfdrup’s thriller Speak No Evil.

Cinephiles will also enjoy Iranian-American Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, starring Burning‘s Jeon Jong-seo; Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo’s Berlinale Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize winner The Novelist’s Film; Mikhaël Hers’ Passengers of the Night; the Berlinale’s Generation Kplus Grand Prix for Best Film, The Quiet Girl, from Colm Bairéad; Rimini, Ulrich Seidl’s first narrative feature in nine years, and Where Is Anne Frank, Israeli director Ari Folman’s first feature in eight years.

The festival also unveiled today an number of international docs, including the local premiere Charlie Shakleton’s The Afterlight – which exists as a single 35mm print, designed to erode every time it screens; and another Charlotte Gainsbourg’s directorial debut, Jane by Charlotte, a portrait of her mother Jane Birkin.

MIFF will also host Sundance audience award winner, Daniel Roher’s Navalny, which follows Vladimir Putin’s political rival as he investigates his state-sponsored poisoning; Polish documentarian Paweł Łoziński’s The Balcony Movie, winner of Locarno 2021’s Semaine de la Critique Grand Prix; director Sara Dosa’s With Fire of Love, and James Benning’s update of his 1975 conceptual work, The United States of America.

Also to screen is Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace’s Meet Me in the Bathroom, which looks at the New York rock scene in the early aughts and features The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.

MIFF will run in cinema August 4-21, and online August 11-28. The full program will be unveiled July 12. Tickets to the Opening Night screening of Of an Age and Sounds of the Screen: Movie Music Across Victorian Landscapes are on sale from 2pm today.